A teacher has to deal with one of her favourites 

By Jane Fairweather

Miss Nancy Graves woke in a far from happy mood. Not for the first time she glared at her single room with its one ancient armchair out of which some stuffing was emerging, an ancient dressing table with a broken mirror that was short in one leg and very tatty curtains that did not even keep out the light. There was not even a wardrobe, but a clothes rail that must have been obtained third hand from some shop or other. And there was not even a rug, just very ancient and dirty lino. Just what you would expect for a room in the attic given as part of her wages to a new and very young teacher in a third rate girl’s boarding school!

After nearly six years in the Wrens she felt the absence of real company, especially today, which was her twenty-fourth birthday, but she felt even more this school’s total lack of discipline and order. It was, she felt, an educational establishment that could not have contributed one iota to the nation’s needs in the endless six years of war that had just finished. However, trying to teach Maths at this horrible little boarding school to pupils who thought it was not the sort of thing that a girl needed to know, was all she had been able to find when she emerged from the Wrens.

This was despite an excellent reference from her commanding officer, but as a typist.

“If only you had a degree and had not spent your whole war typing!” Several possible employers had observed in one form or another.

It did not seem to matter to them that she had gone straight in to the Wrens at the very beginning of the War without any compulsion to do so, out of a genuine desire to serve her country. If she had become an officer she might well have been going to College at the State’s expense, even though she had joined up before taking her Higher School Certificate, but  during her time in the Service something had made her keep her head down and pretend she had not gone to one of the better Girl’s High Schools. She had even consciously diminished her accent from the very proper one she had been brought up with, and lied about which school she had gone to on her application form. And so she had managed to stay fairly anonymous in the typing pool first in London and then in Gibraltar throughout the War, though she had gained an increasing reputation as the best typist there.

In Gibraltar she had increasingly been given all the rush jobs. She wondered what perverseness had made her do it. And yet she had enjoyed the camaraderie and her acknowledged prowess as a typist. For that matter she had enjoyed her growing reputation as rather a good tennis player who occasionally beat men. That at least had the advantage that come the summer she would be coaching Tennis as well as teaching Maths, so she would have less time on her hands. She suspected the Tennis was why she had been appointed in fact. That and the fact Miss Carpenter could not afford a fully qualified Maths teacher for the Upper Forms.

And yet as soon as the War was over, her immediate reaction had been to go back in to civilian life as a teacher, a role in which she found herself scorned. Perhaps she should have taken herself off to Teacher Training College, but she had not fancied a return to education after six years as an adult. Anyway she had always been a whiz at Maths and the simple fact she could claim to have good algebra and geometry had made the headmistress, Miss Carpenter, prick up her ears at once, which said something about the rest of the staff at the school, though she suspected the Tennis was mainly why she had been appointed.

Anyway, here she was in a school, doing the teaching she had wanted to do, but with very little respect from her pupils, and barely noticed by the much older women who made up the bulk of the staff. She was all too well aware that the girls, quite apart from detesting the fact that she actually expected them to do real work, and was prepared to give lines if it did not appear, talked about her behind her back as “Miss Fatty”. It was not the sort of thing that you should take any notice of, she knew very well, but it did not stop her fuming about it silently. And it was absurd. She was not even particularly heavy compared with Miss Thomas or Miss Hurlestone, but she was much younger and the girls somehow expected a mistress of her age to be slim and lissom.

She reluctantly got out of bed and put a saucepan of water on the little gas ring for her morning cup of tea. As usual the ring smelt abominably. She put some tea leaves in her tiny teapot. While she waited for the water she washed herself at the chipped wash stand, pouring cold water out of the ancient enamel jug into the dubious and very cracked bowl. Because she suspected that something unpleasant might be lurking she did little more than wipe her face, preferring to have a bath in the evening, though probably she would have to wait in a queue, certainly if the deputy Head Miss Allen wanted one.

The water was by now boiling and she rather lugubriously made her cup of tea, noting her small jug of milk was not quite off. The smell of the gas ring lingered horribly as she drank her cup of tea.

Then she remembered the mysterious parcel from her grandmother. She had shoved it under her bed with a couple of cards before she went to sleep the previous evening and had somehow forgotten she had done it. She opened the three cards first. Two were from fellow wrens. Anne was about to be married and Susan had been married for a couple of months and thought she was pregnant. Nancy was not sure if she envied her or not. All the animal mess that went with pregnancy always put her off.

The third card was from Lieutenant Robert Jones RN, who had been vaguely her boyfriend for several years without anything very startling ever having happened. Frankly she doubted if the affair was ever going to ignite into anything real. She decided it was time to write to Robert and say she was sorry, but it was time to end the relationship, which had never got near to an engagement, or anything else for that matter. Nancy realized she resented Robert’s excessive respect for her virginity. He had never wanted to explore her body, and she wanted it to be explored. She had tried telling him so on a number of occasions, but he had never taken her up on it.

And for that matter she and Robert had never had a real quarrel. She had been quite jealous when Susan, her one real buddy in the Wrens, had a blazing row with her boyfriend (now husband). It had started with Susan throwing a vase with the flowers he had just given her still in it at her lover’s head and ended with Susan having her bare bottom soundly smacked like a little girl. Susan had been so odd about that, talking about it as something to be proud of, even the quantity of tears that had been extracted from her. She had even shown off her bruises like school boys were supposed to.

Nancy wondered if she would have felt the same, or resented it furiously? Oh why had she put up with Robert for so long! There must be a real lover for her somewhere in this world. She wondered if Susan had put up much resistance. Her tight Wren’s skirt should have made it difficult, but maybe the lovers were already down to their underclothes? A lot of girls were prepared to go that far with their men, though the men of course wanted all of it. Anyway in her two years courtship by Robert, they had been to some nice films and shows, gone for a few walks and talked quite a lot, but nothing so improper had occurred as the removal of her skirt, let alone her knickers. And the idea of Robert spanking her was quite ridiculous. He would never have had the courage to do it, or got angry enough.

But what was this parcel from Grandma? Since her father had left her mother when she was two, and no one had heard of him since, and her mother had died of pneumonia when she was three, Grandma, had brought her up. It had been a rather old fashioned up-bringing. Grandma was not that severe, but she did not stand for nonsense and Nancy smiled at the recollection of several hard and well deserved spankings. Grandma undoubtedly could spank, though she did not do it unless she was forced to, but when she did spank, she really spanked. Nancy reflected she had been quite a naughty child and in Grandma’s place she would probably have done it much more frequently. On the other hand when Grandma did punish you, then you really knew about it, and you had no desire to repeat your misdeeds.

As usual with Grandma’s parcels the string was tied with incredible complexity and Nancy, not liking to waste a good piece of string, took a good ten minutes to undo it, knot by knot. Inside was a long cardboard box, which appeared to have seen better days, and a letter. The letter had a ten shilling note pinned to it and said the obvious things about hoping Nancy had a good year, but added that the contents of the box might be useful for the problems she had been having with her pupils.

Nancy smiled; Grandma was always so thoughtful, but what possible help could Grandma give her with her pupils? Hester Felix and Anne Carmichael especially, they were pigs those two girls, never working, always disrupting, always calling her “Miss Fatty” when they thought she could not hear them, and undoubtedly guilty of bad teasing of other, more sensitive, girls like Antonia Davis, who would be good at Maths if she was allowed to work. Lines when they were handed in, which was by no means always, seemed to have no effect. And the school had no detentions, tellings off, or anything else.

Miss Carpenter, the elderly headmistress seemed to live in a world of her own in her study, emerging only to conduct religious assemblies during which the Hesters and Annes of this world chatted endlessly and noisily without restraint. It all made Nancy very angry, especially when she thought of the slender, boyish body and beautiful auburn hair of Antonia Davis, who was her best pupil and on whom she had a very definite crush. However, she was sensible enough to know that it did not help your standing as a teacher to have an obvious favourite.

She opened the cardboard box. Inside was a rather elegant white girdle, which she realized with a smile would undoubtedly go some way to improving her figure. She took it out and put the box on the floor. Never having worn a girdle before, she examined it, wondering how to fit her knickers and stockings and vest round it. She was just thinking it would be a definite improvement and would probably put an end to her being called “Fatty”, though she was not quite sure, when she noticed out of the corner of her eye that there was something else in the box. She reached a hand down into it and pulled up something long and straight. To her surprise she realized it was a very supple rattan cane of nearly three feet.

It was not in fact the first time that she had seen a cane. Grandma had always kept one on a hook in the kitchen, but never actually used it. Nancy remembered she had been in an inch of it the day when Grandma caught her smoking when she was quite old. She remembered the humiliation and fear as she was ordered to pull up her skirts and bend across the end of the sofa in the sitting room. Nancy remembered with a shiver her knickers being pulled up as tight as they would go and then the cane was tapping her bottom. She burst into hysterical tears and pleaded desperately. Rather to her surprise, Grandmother let her off, feeling she had made her point. Nancy always rather resented this. Being caned and not caned seemed a touch unfair somehow.

Oddly on one occasion in Gibraltar, Susan (yet again, Susan was always getting in trouble with someone or other, possibly her East End accent did not help) had returned to their dorm after a visit to a senior officer for answering back to a captain RN with tears in her eyes and walking very oddly. It was generally believed she had had the cane, but no one liked to ask and Susan had never said what happened. She had been as tight-lipped about it as she was vociferous about the spanking by her future husband.

Nancy had fantasised about that incident over and over again. She could never make up her mind whether Susan had kept her skirt on. In some versions of the fantasy she imagined Suzan’s tight uniform skirt jerking wildly as she reached for her toes and the cane swished. In other versions Susan very embarrassedly struggled out of said skirt and had to present her not very thick but very attractive black knickers to the cane of either the offended captain RN, or First Officer Fowler, who was a big woman with a reputation for being interested in her own sex. Anyway, whoever had administered the punishment had made a thorough job of it. Of that Nancy was quite sure. Susan had gone on walking very oddly for several days and had winced every time she sat down.

Anyway, what was she to do with this strange object? She swished it through the air and felt an odd sense of power; but then brought herself back to earth with the thought that the only punishment at this school was lines. She would never be allowed to use this splendid implement. She put it back in the box with some regret.

Then she put on a girdle for the first time. When she had finally got her nylon stockings, girdle and very stylish French knickers in the correct relationship, which took several goes, she felt at once a touch confined and more sure of herself than since she had arrived at this dreadful school.

“Thank you Grandma!” She thought.

She slipped on an elegant pink slip with embroidery round the edges and a very demure navy blue dress, then realized she was only just going to be in time for Assembly and she would have to skip breakfast. With a wry look in her eyes she took the cane out of the box and swished it two or three times more. It was a nice thought of Grandma’s, but it would never be used, unlike the girdle which was already a great help to her morale. She wondered if she dared swish herself and see how much it stung, just once perhaps. But she must get to Assembly and she was on the verge of being late, so she rushed off, thinking perhaps she would experiment later, but not too hard.

*     *     *

She was sitting on the school stage with the other mistresses who did not have forms. They were chattering among themselves, but as usual no one deigned to talk to her, but then they were all at least twenty years older. The girls, as usual, were chattering far too much. Most of them would shut up when the Headmistress entered, though a few would go on all through Assembly, the awful Hester Felix and Anne Carmichael no doubt among them. Oh she itched to use that cane on them, but it would never be allowed. The headmistress was much too nice! She had tried to persuade her to deal with Hester and Anne over the constant bullying that they were inflicting on Antonia Davis two weeks back. And what had happened? The stupid woman had proclaimed they were all nice girls really and should be persuaded to make friends! Some hope! This, despite Matron’s very sensible and clear evidence. The girls had not even been interviewed.

Nancy realised the Headmistress was a good twenty minutes late. What was keeping the old bat? She really was getting past it and the lack of discipline in the school was all too clear a sign of it. She wondered what to do if the dreadful Hester and Anne dropped something on Antonia’s maths exercise book again. It had happened three weeks in a row now and each time Antonia had said it was all her fault; she was too afraid of Hester and Anne, poor girl. It was very tempting to deal with them unofficially, but the price would be her job, and she did not feel she could afford it.

There was the noise of an ambulance getting steadily closer. For once the whole school stopped and listened. Nancy wondered who the sick person was. Probably Matron, she concluded, who did not come in to Assembly and was getting rather old, or possibly the Caretaker, Mr James, who was a retired sailor. Or maybe some girl had gone down with the dreaded lurgies. Anyway whatever it was the Head must be dealing with it and Miss Allen, the deputy head, must be helping with it, and in all probability was the one doing whatever had to be done. What little she had seen of Miss Allen suggested a certain common sense, which was considerably in excess of the Headmistress‘s. The ambulance went off again and the chattering resumed in the school hall. Nancy began to fidget, wondering why the Head was taking so long. She could at least have sent Miss Allen to conduct the Assembly.

A secretary entered the hall, made her way to the stage and whispered to Miss Hurlstone, the Chemistry Mistress, who was widely regarded as third in the school hierarchy. Nancy, to her annoyance, could not hear what was being said.

Miss Hurlstone lifted up her capacious body in its awful grey skirt and jacket and addressed the Assembly. “I am very sorry to tell you that our Headmistress has just been taken seriously ill and has gone to hospital, and Miss Allen has accompanied her. It is time for lessons to start anyway, so I would be grateful if everyone would file out in an orderly fashion and go to their classes. I think that is the best solution. I ask you all to pray for Miss Carpenter. I understand she has had a stroke.”

It was only then that Nancy realized the seriousness of Miss Carpenter’s illness. When Miss Hurlestone first started talking she had imagined it was just the old woman having the vapours. Now she felt mildly ashamed of herself. Listening to the sigh that passed round the room she realized she was not alone.

*     *     *

The difficult class was after lunch. Despite Miss Carpenter’s upsetting illness Nancy was in a mood to do more than just cope; in some way the girdle increased her confidence. She strode into the classroom. As happened at even this school and even with the older pupils, all the girls stood up with a noise of scraping chairs. Nancy told them to sit down and there was another sound of scraping. She noticed that most of them tucked their loose olive green gym slips under them as they sat down again. It crossed her mind there must be no male equivalent. Schoolboys’ clothes were so much tighter than girls. Probably why Grandma had taken her skirts up and pulled her knickers up before the famous none caning for smoking. It had never struck her before.

“Open your books at page 87 and read about graphs and quadratic equations, then do the first exercise. When you have all found out you don’t understand it we will look at it on the board. Antonia, I know you know all about it, so be kind enough to collect in last night’s prep for me, would you; and bring it to my desk. When you have done that I will set you some work by yourself.”

She was pleased at the brisk tone of her own voice. She felt more in control than normal. The girls  at least made a pretence of opening their textbooks and doing as they were told, though a number including Hester and Anne (“the Terrible Duo” Nancy called them) did little more than that, and there was a lot of very unnecessary chattering, which she felt powerless to stop.

Antonia rather awkwardly approached her desk with the exercise books for the whole class. Nancy felt the stirring within her she always felt when Antonia came near her. There was something about the girl’s smell.

“I am sorry Miss, but my book has got some ink on it. I don‘t think you can read my work.”

“Really Antonia,” Nancy said with pretended severity. “Something always seems to happen to your exercise book. You really ought to be more careful.”

“Yes, you should be more careful Antonia.” Hester called out mockingly from the back of the class, with a grin to Anne.

Nancy hoped that Antonia was sensitive enough to guess that she could guess who had spilt the ink, but she did not like to say it in case it embarrassed Antonia with the stigma of collaboration with teachers. If Matron had not happened to mention that Antonia was always being teased by Anne and Hester she would have not have been so positive. However there had to be an explanation of why something always got spilt on Antonia’s work. The first three times it had been water, which at least left it possible to read the work. The fact that water was so ambiguous had been one reason she had been unable to convince the Headmistress that something serious was wrong.  And now it was ink, which was much more serious, because it would make Antonia’s painstaking work illegible. But how was she to rein them in?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the realisation that a note had left Hester and been passed to Anne, who was giggling her head off. Then it went through the rest of their friends till it began to pass to girls who were outside Hester and Anne’s little gang. Some seemed more amused than others, but all passed it on. She watched the note’s progress with half an eye, while pretending to be absorbed in her marking. When it was two desks away Nancy got up and seized the note out of the hands of Pamela Smith, a rather innocent child who was clearly wondering what was going on.

“Oh sugar! That’s torn it!” She heard Hester say to Anne none too quietly. “I’ll kill Pammy for letting her get it.”

Nancy opened the note and read: “Miss Fatty has got herself a girdle and it makes her look even more like a fat slob. H.”

It dawned on Nancy that, incredibly, Hester had half signed it by that “H” and the only other H in the class was Helen Adams, who sat at the front of the class, so the note had not yet reached her. Hester ought to go to the Headmistress for this, but there was no Headmistress, and Miss Allen had still not come back from the hospital at lunchtime and in all probability was still there.

“Hester Felix, this is extremely insolent. You will go and stand in the corridor with your hands on your head till I have time to deal with you. And don‘t think to sneak away, or you will be in real trouble.”

Hester stood up, looking terribly proud of herself and sauntered out into the corridor, shutting the door after her.

“That’s not fair Miss. H for Hester could just as well be H for Helen.” Anne was complaining in a reasonable voice.

“I am quite sure it was Hester who started that note going round. I saw her.”

“Well it wasn’t Miss. And anyway how could you know when you were doing your marking.”

Anne sounded incredibly self righteous and Nancy exploded.

“So you are now trying to incriminate an innocent fellow pupil, Anne Carmichael, and you have the effrontery to call me a liar. You can go and join your friend in the corridor with your hands on your head. The pair of you can expect a very severe punishment.”

The girls looked at one another. They were used to their Maths mistress being shy and mouse-like and this real fury was startling. Anne looked as if she was about to protest, thought better of it, and walked out of the class looking distinctly nervous.

“Now you had all better get on with your work, and I don’t want to hear a word.”

The rest of the lesson was surprisingly quiet and well ordered.

*     *     *

“You may go now.”

There was the inevitable shuffle of chairs and noise of feet as the girls got up and went to their next class. Nancy wondered what on earth she could do with the two culprits in the corridor, assuming they were still there, which she had her doubts about. She dare not cane them without permission, though it was definitely what was needed. And there was not even a headmistress to send them to. And for the same reason she was nervous about giving them a lot of lines, which might well not get done.

In the end, she strode out trying to look more assured than she felt. Intriguingly both girls were facing the wall with their hands on their heads. She wondered if they had been like that all the time, or had put their hands on their heads when they heard her coming, but there was no way of knowing. She ushered them back into the Classroom and told them off severely. It had some effect on Anne, she supposed, who looked a little bit contrite, but Hester just looked insolent, even though she did give an apology when asked for it. And when she dismissed them the noise of Hester giggling unpleasantly somewhere down the corridor was all too evident. She only hoped they were not going to take it out on Antonia.

*     *     *

The rest of the day was uneasy. She had another, much more docile class. Then she spent an hour marking algebra. Then she went and had a cup of tea with Matron, who was a sensible woman and the only person so far that Nancy had made friends with. She told Matron that she was worried in case Antonia suffered because she had disciplined Hester and Anne. Matron shrugged her capacious shoulders and said that she would do her best to keep an eye on the “Terrible Duo” (a phrase she had picked up from Nancy), but with the Head in hospital it might be difficult to get anything done, and then added that getting anything done about bullying when the Head was present was pretty difficult.

Having lingered as long as she decently could, Nancy took herself off for a short walk. Then she read for a while. Then she went to evening meal at the Staff table. She found herself next to Miss Hurlestone who was full of the sadness of the Head’s illness and started telling stories of what a nice woman Miss Carpenter was, which Nancy found aggravating because she thought Miss Carpenter was silly rather than nice.

After dinner Nancy went back to her attic room and read for a while. Then she got restless and got the cane out and, giggling to herself, pulled her skirts up, bent herself over the end of the bed and attempted to swish her bottom in an attempt to find out what she had missed out on that time with Grandma. However she just caught the back of her thighs rather painfully. She was just wondering how to get round this problem when there was a knock at the door.

She called out: “Just a minute!! I am not quite decent,” feeling both guilty and absurd. She slipped the cane back under the bed and smoothed her skirts down.

She went to the door, reflecting the welt on her thigh was hurting. It was Matron, who was obviously in a hurry and looking very serious.

“Sorry, I was literally just starting to undress for bed. Bit cold to be sitting up isn’t it.” Nancy found herself lying: “Anyway, what do you want?”

“You will never guess what has happened! The Terrible Duo were stupid enough to rag poor Antonia in the Senior Studies corridor. They had her on the ground and were giving her hair a hard pulling and every one of those stupid girls was walking past pretending it was not happening. You would think, being older girls, (and over eighteen most of them!) they would have done something. My old Headmistress would have taken a cane to the lot of them. Anyway Antonia, bless her, was fighting back at long last and managed to scratch Hester’s face. And then Miss Allen had just come back from the hospital and decided to take a wander round to see everything was alright, and she stumbled straight into them and she is livid.

They are all three lined up outside her study at the moment while she thinks what to do. I happened to see them as she was marching them back to be dealt with. I asked if I could see her for a minute as there were things I thought she ought to know before she started doing anything. I was terrified she was going to expel all three, including poor Antonia. Anyway I told her what I know and she wants to see you as well because a lot of what I told her came from you originally. I hope that’s alright.”

“Yes of course it is. I will come straight away.”

Nancy seized a cardigan, reflecting she had been so pre-occupied with her silly little game that she had got cold without realizing. They rushed down various corridors to the Headmistress’s study.

The three girls were lined up outside the study, just as Matron had said.  Hester and Anne were standing closely together. Hester had a vicious set of scratches down her right cheek and was possibly missing some hair, but was still looking decidedly insolent, in Nancy’s view. Anne was looking worried as well she might. Antonia was standing several yards away from the other two girls and was crying. Matron knocked briefly on the door and walked in, followed rather nervously by Nancy. Miss Allen was sat behind Miss Carpenter’s desk in deep thought. She turned her head up.

“Thank you for coming so promptly, Miss Graves. This really is a very odd situation. Normally Miss Carpenter would have dealt with it, but for obvious reasons she is not able to. Anyway I have just telephoned the Chairman of the Governors and he is quite happy for me to take whatever action is required. Indeed it seems I am acting Head till Miss Carpenter returns, which frankly I think is unlikely or, much more likely, they decide to appoint a successor.

“Anyway I gather from Matron you know a good deal about the background to this unfortunate incident?”

Nancy stuttered all she knew about the bullying of Antonia and the generally bad behaviour of Hester especially.

“So this has been going on for weeks and Miss Carpenter did nothing?”

“I am afraid so Miss Allen.”

“I really cannot say I am very surprised. She has not been herself all term. But it has made it very awkward, it really has.”

There was an awkward pause, as if Miss Allen did not like to say why the situation was awkward.

“Why?” Nancy managed to get out, feeling completely baffled.

“Why? Because I am afraid it was Antonia who started the fight. Pamela Smith, who I think you would agree is a very sensible girl, heard a row in the corridor, which was probably Hester and Anne teasing Antonia once too often. She put her head out of her study door just in time to see Antonia scratch Hester’s face quite viciously. It then turned into a full scale fight in which Anne apparently joined when Hester seemed to be getting the worst of it. Pamela at this point got so worried that she ran off to try and find someone in the Head‘s study. She did not find anyone of course and came back, just in time to see me hauling all three girls over the coals. She is quite unequivocal. Antonia is entirely to blame for it turning into a fight. And Pamela is a very honest girl, so I have to take what she says seriously. Quite apart from which Antonia’s behaviour was quite vicious. Have you seen the scratches she inflicted?

Anyway I had made up my mind that Antonia will have to be expelled, if the Chairman of the Governors would agree to it, because you simply cannot have young ladies, especially eighteen year olds behaving like this. I was three quarters of the way back to my study and I was confronted by Matron asking me if she could have a word. When I heard what she said I thought I had to investigate the bullying further and send for you. Your evidence has been very clear and to the point Miss Graves, for which I am extremely grateful.

However, it does leave me with a dilemma about what to do with these three girls. Anne is probably the least culpable as regards the fight. She seems to have joined in when her friend was losing, which is just about forgivable, and she seems to have done little more than hinder Antonia from hurting her best friend. However, there is the question of the bullying, which from what you say is extremely serious and I take your word for it. Hester really ought to be for the high jump as the leader of the bullying and indeed her extremely insolent attitude towards you, Miss Graves. However, she does have the mitigation that she was attacked quite viciously. Finally there is Antonia, who is normally a very good girl, and has been the victim of severe bullying. However, her attack on Hester was vicious. I can put it no other way. I think I may have no alternative but to expel all three girls, but I will think about it overnight, and I am open to argument.”

Nancy and Matron looked at one another in horror. Nancy did not know what to say. If Hester had been expelled she would have been delighted, but for Antonia to be given her marching orders was ridiculous and though Anne was thoroughly annoying she did not deserve to be expelled. There must be another way.

Then Matron burst out with: “There is always the cane, Miss Allen. Why not use it?”

“Oh you are so old-fashioned Matron! I don’t think Miss Carpenter has ever had a cane. Certainly she has never used one. She has always preferred more civilised methods. And even if I had one and I wanted to use it my gammy shoulder would ensure it was less than an impressive punishment. No, that would be letting them off too lightly.”

“We could easily buy one.” Said Matron stubbornly. “And, for that matter, Miss Graves is a very solid young woman, who I am sure would teach them all a lesson very efficiently.”

“If I had to do it, I would do.” Said Nancy feeling ridiculously awkward, but remembering all the tennis she had played in Gibraltar, which seemed a universe away at this moment. Still an ability to serve and volley might be quite useful if she had to do it, which in many ways she would rather not. She hoped she did not have to cane Antonia; it would be extremely upsetting.

“Really I am much too tired to think about this just now. Come and see me first thing in the morning about half past eight and we will talk about it. Really it has been a harrowing day. Oh you’d better tell the girls to come back after Assembly tomorrow, but don’t tell them what we have been discussing.”

And then Miss Allen added as a very strange after thought: “I do like your girdle Miss Graves. You look much better with it.”

Nancy did not know whether to laugh or cry at the sheer irrelevance.

*     *     *

Nancy woke after a very deep sleep, feeling intensely depressed. Almost certainly Antonia was going to be expelled and there was nothing she could do. Antonia had knocked on her door about an hour after they had all departed from the Head‘s study. She had begged and pleaded for help, which Nancy had felt forced to deny any ability to offer. Then Antonia had cried hysterically on her shoulder for over an hour, before Nancy had gently shooed her back to her study. It had been most distressing, not least because she had a very strong desire to kiss the girl passionately. She got out of bed and had her cup of tea and washed and dressed.

Then as an ironic after thought she got out the cane and practiced swishing it at an imaginary bottom a couple of feet above the bed. She first of all rather perversely imagined Antonia’s small neat buttocks; if she was caned she would undoubtedly suffer, but it would be interesting she decided to see the girl’s very pretty behind in more detail. She laughed at herself for thinking that. Then she imagined Hester’s much more solid bottom and decided that if she got the chance Hester would not sit down for a week. Somehow she did not think about Anne. She decided if she had to act as school executioner she would make a good job of it. She wondered if she dared admit that she owned a cane, but she suspected it would not be well received.

She glanced at her watch and realized it was nearly eight twenty-five and hurried on down to the Head Mistress’s Study. Matron was outside it, but as yet Miss Allen was not there. Matron was as sleepy as Nancy, so there was little conversation. Eventually Miss Allen arrived looking gloomy and ushered them in.

“I really don’t want to expel Antonia.” She announced. “And rather to my surprise I have found a cane at the back of one of the cupboards in the study. It was covered in cobwebs. I would not be surprised if it belonged to Miss Carpenter’s predecessor, Miss Gerald. Everyone says she was a tartar. The question is, are you really prepared to use it, Miss Graves? I realize Antonia is somewhat of a favourite of yours, and goodness knows having to carry out such a punishment would be upsetting at the best of times, let alone when it is a girl that you are genuinely very fond of.”

Nancy drew a breath as she realized both the other women were looking at her hard. She felt her heart pounding. How had Miss Allen worked out how fond she was of Antonia? Had Matron said something? She had said more to Matron than she should have done about her crush on Antonia.

“If it has to be done, I will do it. But what about the other two?”

“I will severely admonish them and inform them that any repetition of this behaviour will lead quite definitely to immediate expulsion. And they will suffer long periods of gating, which they will hate.”

“That seems a bit lenient, Miss Allen.” Nancy protested, feeling quite shocked.

“I understand your feelings, Miss Graves, but that is my decision. As far as I am concerned your favourite very definitely deserves to be expelled for assaulting a fellow pupil. Count yourself fortunate that I am allowing you this chance to get you and her out of it. I presume you still want to do it?”

“Yes, of course, Miss Allen!” Said Nancy feeling quite cross.

“Very well, after Assembly come back to the study about ten-thirty. By then I should have given all three girls the lecture of their lives. When I have finished talking to Antonia I will call you in and you will give her five strokes of the cane on the seat of her knickers. And don’t let her off lightly. I want tears and contrition out of that young lady, so make sure they are hard strokes, as hard as you can give them, or I might just change my mind.”

Nancy very nearly said Antonia had shown great contrition the evening before in her room. However she realized it would do no good, so just said: “Yes, Miss Allen,” and went.

 Somehow she did not go into Assembly. Matron realized  just how upset Nancy was, more or less forbade her to go back to her own room and tried to comfort her over a cup of tea, but Nancy was less than her usual loquacious self. Matron tried telling her that the cane was over quickly and while it really hurt at the time the pain and discomfort did not go on forever. Nancy kept saying over and over again that the wrong girl was being caned and it was totally unfair. Matron kept telling her that if she did not carry out the punishment poor Antonia would be expelled. Nancy kept telling her that for that reason and that reason alone she would do it and do it well, but it did not stop her hating having to do it. Oh why did Miss Allen have to have a gammy shoulder; it was ridiculous!

“It is ten twenty-five.” Matron observed after what seemed an eternity of sitting and waiting.

“Yes!” Said Nancy. “Better get it over with, I suppose!” And rushed out of the room without properly saying goodbye.

She stomped down the corridor to the Head’s study, glowering ferociously. To her surprise Hester was standing outside the door looking distinctly edgy and not at all her haughty self. Were those really tears in Hester’s eyes. Hester must be having her lecture last. This seemed a little odd. It was, after all, poor Antonia who was going to be caned and was already being well and truly dragged over the coals, judging by the ferocious sound of Miss Allen’s voice through the door. Was Hester going to be allowed to stand outside the door and gloat while Antonia was caned? This seemed quite awful to Nancy.

They stood in silence side by side for several minutes, but then Nancy could bear it no longer and asked: “Why are you standing here. I was expecting you to have been dealt with already.”

“Yes, I have seen Miss Allen already Miss.”

“Then why are you here?”

Nancy had visions of Hester lingering on there to listen to her rival’s come-uppance and if this was the case she was well and truly for the high jump. She really detested Hester.

“I’ve got to apologise to you in front of Miss Allen, Miss. And then I have got to have the cane.”

“How did that happen?”

“Miss Allen was going to gate me for two terms, Miss, and when I said that was a bit long she said perhaps one term and a caning was fair, so that is what I am getting, Miss. Three strokes, Miss. I suppose it is better than being expelled, Miss.”

Nancy reflected that having gone to a High School herself, she had completely forgotten what a punishment being forbidden to leave the grounds was to a boarding school girl. The morning, she felt, was looking up, just a little. Then it suddenly struck her that Hester almost certainly thought Miss Allen was going to be her executioner. Little did she know!

Silence resumed for a good five minutes, broken only by Hester’s periodic sobbing. Whatever else might be said for or against the situation, Miss Allen had certainly got through to Hester!

“What did Anne get?” She enquired as an after thought.

“She was just gated for four weeks, Miss.”

‘Fair enough!’ Nancy thought to herself. Anne had undoubtedly been led on by Hester over the bullying and had not played a large part in the fight, so it was reasonable.

The door opened. Nancy felt her mouth go dry. She had very mixed feelings about this but, still, better get it over. Hester sounded as if she was trying to repress her sobs. Miss Allen ushered them in. Antonia was standing in front of the desk crying quite a lot. Nancy found herself standing beside Miss Allen, who sat in the chair behind the desk, trying not to look too hard at the girls on the other side. She noticed the cane, which was rather longer than the one her Grandma had sent and had a crook handle, was waiting on the desk. She wondered if Antonia’s tears were a result of seeing the instrument of her punishment.

“Right, Miss Hester Felix, before we do anything else, you will apologise to Miss Graves for deliberate insolence over a period of weeks. As one of our older girls you should know a lot better than this. Miss Graves has survived six years war service, including service overseas. She really ought not to have to put up with this nonsense.”

Nancy gave Miss Allen credit for knowing about her service in the Wrens. Hester struggled to say anything through her tears, but eventually gritted her teeth and muttered the prescribed formula. Nancy briefly accepted the apology, feeling it was all a little ridiculous, but took an intense pleasure at the thought of the caning she was about to administer.

Miss Allen then demanded an apology from Hester to Antonia for the bullying. This seemed to require even more of an effort from Hester, but she gave it. Finally Antonia had to apologise for starting the fight. Nancy was impressed that she managed to speak quite clearly and sounded it as if she meant it.

“Right girls, if you would be kind enough to pull your skirts above your waists and keep hold of them. Now walk a little apart. Now lean forward slightly over the desk while hanging on to your skirts. Miss Graves, perhaps you would be kind enough to pick up that cane and give Miss Davis five hard strokes on the seat of her knickers, and Miss Felix three strokes.”

Both girls obeyed as if in a daze and started to cry even more than they had been doing. Nancy picked up the cane and walked round the other side of the desk, trying to avoid Antonia’s agonised, tearful face. She wondered if Antonia was going to hate her for this. Or would she be grateful? She would so like Antonia to like her.

She was struck by the incongruity of two tightly be-knickered female behinds resolutely holding themselves in precisely the position that every schoolgirl was taught never to expose herself in. She decided she would deal with Antonia first, because whoever was second would probably suffer a lot listening to the first punishment.

Antonia then. Nancy gazed briefly at her target. Antonia was wearing a very grown up looking pair of  scarlet knickers that came right down to the top of her thighs and seemed to go up to her waist. Clearly Antonia was more grown up than she looked, at least if one judged by her taste in underwear. Regrettably from the point of someone who was about to have her first caning, the knickers did not look very thick. White suspenders came down from a garter belt round her waist and down each side of the knickers to her black schoolgirl stockings.

Nancy aimed her cane carefully, tapping the seat of the knickers a couple of times and trying to take in the contours of the two plump little buttocks. She brought the cane down hard near the top of them. There was a gasp from Antonia and a distinct wriggle. Nancy aimed the second stroke where the buttocks almost touched. There was a shriek from Antonia, but she held her position. The third she placed just under the second and Antonia screamed at the top of her voice and started kicking about with her legs. Rather oddly, Hester also shrieked, presumably in sympathy. Nancy paused to let Antonia stop kicking, then she let go the fourth and fifth along the bottom edge of the buttocks and Antonia collapsed over the desk clutching her buttocks and yelling and weeping.

Nancy briefly thought that it would have been kind to have warned the girl she was going to be thrashed; at least she could have put thicker knickers on.

However now it was Hester’s turn. Hester’s knickers were brown and solid with a couple of buttons at the side. She was not wearing suspenders, but kept her black stockings up with garters. There was a distinct patch of white soft flesh between knickers and stockings, which Nancy felt to be very tempting, but she thought she should probably resist the temptation.  She wondered if Hester’s large buttocks, which had much less space between them than Antonia’s, were muscle or plump flesh. Anyway she would soon find out. She tapped the knickers a couple of times with the cane. Hester’s hands flew to cover the target area.

“I’d better hold her.” Said Miss Allen briskly, stood up, walked round the desk and held the victim and her arms in a tight bear hug.

It occurred to Nancy that if Miss Allen was capable of this she should have been up to carrying out the caning herself. Presumably Miss Allen did not like caning girls. It was an interesting thought. Nancy realized that in spite of herself she had just thoroughly enjoyed thrashing Antonia. It was all a little odd. Perhaps somehow Miss Allen had guessed she would get some pleasure out of this. But she liked Antonia.

Anyway it was time to cane Hester, who was now pleading desperately not to be caned.

“Please, Miss Allen, Please Miss Graves, I would really rather have the two terms gating. Please not the cane!”

“Too late young lady.” Said Miss Allen, taking an even firmer grip on the victim’s fore-arms. “Get on with it, would you Miss Graves?”

Nancy was deeply annoyed by this piece of cowardice. After all, if the girl had not wanted to be caned she should not have asked for it. And now she was going to get it. She stood right back and really laid into Hester’s large behind, which thrust wildly with each stroke, while the victim screamed her head off.

“Right, you two girls can go. Thank you, Miss Graves, that was very well done but I don’t think I shall need you again this morning. You can go too.”

Nancy rather self consciously handed the cane back to Miss Allen. Then she went back to her room in a very over-excited state where she recommenced her experiments with her grandmother’s cane. She found, after a little practice, she could do it just hard enough to make herself tingle satisfactorily, which in turn produced a very pleasant feeling of gratification. She wondered, knowing grandma, if that had been the intention all along, but it was hard to know. But now, she thought, she ought to go and see how Antonia was.

The End

© Jane Fairweather 2013      (Click here to visit the Amazon Author Page for Jane Fairweather)